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Top Dogs

T-Loc's Sonora Hot Dogs bring Mexico to Allandale

By Melanie Haupt, Fri., July 25, 2014

T-Loc's Sonora Hot Dogs

Top Dogs
Photos by John Anderson

T-Loc's Sonora Hot Dogs

5715 Burnet Rd.
512/994-8982
Tue.-Sat., 11am-10pm
www.facebook.com/pages/t-locs-sonora-hot-dogs/633042383418166
Top Dogs

We love hot dogs in America. Ever since they arrived on these shores from Vienna in the mid-19th century, frankfurters (or franks, wieners, weenies, tube steaks, whatever you call them) have been associated with all things America: baseball, amusement parks, backyard cookouts. Hell, we even observe the 4th of July with Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island, and it's broadcast on ESPN like it's a real sport.

Just as there are myriad names for hot dogs depending on geography, we like to cook and serve them according to regional custom. Some boil their franks, others grill them. In Chicago, they "drag 'em through the garden," and here in Texas we like to drown them in chili. The hot dog is eminently adaptable. As such, in terms of cultural and regional immediacy, the Sonoran hot dog is arguably the exemplar of fusion food.

Top Dogs

Long a popular street food in the northwestern Mexican state of Sonora and nearby Tucson, Ariz., the hot dog estilo Sonora is wrapped in bacon and grilled on a flat top before being snuggled into a pillowy bolillo-type roll and topped with pinto beans, diced tomatoes and onions, mustard, a squiggle of mayonnaise, and served with a grilled guero jalapeño pepper on the side.

Hard to believe, but it wasn't until April of this year before there were legit Sonoran hot dogs available in Austin. Thanks to Michael Kaiser and Zulma Nantaren, who arrived in Austin a year ago (give or take), we've now got an authentic, faithfully replicated version of this Southwestern specialty in the tiny food trailer court on Burnet Road. While Austinites get their cars detailed at Mister Car Wash, they can enjoy a Sonoran dog con todo ($5; upgrade to a kosher Hebrew National frank or veggie dog for a buck) at T-Loc's Sonora Hot Dogs (the "T-Loc" stands for "Tucson Locals"). Those rolls are FedExed in from Arizona daily, as are the fat-forward, super-thin, nearly translucent Arizona-style tortillas in the deceptively filling carne asada burritos.

Kaiser, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu who once worked at Thomas Keller's Per Se, carefully explains the ritual involved in eating the burrito before handing it over in its paper boat: between bites, add a bit of salt, a squeeze of lime, and a dash of green or red salsa. He'll gladly tell anyone who asks the story of how he and Nantaren ("the boss," as Kaiser refers to his fiancée) chose Austin as the launch pad for their dream business.

Meanwhile, Nantaren, a native of Honduras, makes sure that the tall glasses of her homemade aguas frescas – traditional flavors like pineapple, mango, strawberry lemonade, and tamarind rotate every week – stay full. Together they offer the purest form of owner-operator hospitality: boundless energy and passion alongside heartfelt lagniappe and a small-town community feel. It's the American dream writ large on a couple of variations on meat swathed in bread.

It's tempting to reference our country's recent troubles along its southern border in a conversation about Sonoran hot dogs, but that would be an overreach. But here are the facts: Americans like hot dogs. Austinites like fusion food, if the ongoing popularity of regional interpretations of ramen, bánh mì, and kimchi are any indication. T-Loc's Sonora Hot Dogs offers the perfect storm of both, and the Austin food truck scene is better for it.

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